An Oasis of Antique Motorcycles in Hiroshima

Bankara Panhead – Hiroshima, Japan

Back when I was living/working in Hiroshima, I would ride my bicycle to work each day and each day at lunch time I would ride with some of my coworkers to the 7-11 for sushi.  It was our normal routine and a nice way to break up the day.

Sometimes I would get a bit antsy and ride further into the neighborhood – looking to see what was there.  Fifteen minutes of glory before making a u-turn and swinging back round to the office.

One very ordinary day, I was doing just this – peddling down an unknown street in search of a grocery store I’d heard of… one that was rumored to carry an excellent selection of boxed meals.

It was hot out and there was a distinct determination to find the place and hopefully duck into some AC… easily my mind had the kind of oneway blindness that comes when you are overheated and hungry and oh-so-determined to reach your destination…  however this isn’t what happened.

I was almost to there… but something in the periphery brought me to a complete stop.

Just up the street, directly across from my destination, was a panhead.  A stunning brilliant panhead.

If a body could stutter the way that words sometimes do, I think that is exactly what I was doing when I pulled up along side this bike.

I thought I was hallucinating… but there it was on a narrow wood deck outside a shoe repair shop.  It didn’t appear to be arbitrary – it appeared to belong there and I assumed perhaps it was the owner’s.

This is about when one should nod their appreciation and go on about their business but I moved in closer to investigate – amazed by my luck – both lunch and heat completely forgotten.

On inspection, I found what was mostly a stock bike – not chopped, not bling-ed out,  but a clean setup and evidently ridden… something surely more akin to a mirage.

I was still drooling when a young man came out and said, “You must come – older inside.”

So here’s me, on the sidewalk, in this heat thinking, “…what? …what did he say??”

“Older – Inside – Come”

And damned if he wasn’t right.  Inside the shop was a knucklehead.  Yup.  Right there, parked square in middle of a tiny shoe repair shop. A sweet knucklehead – also very stock and apart from some stray wiring, incredibly clean in her lines.

This is when it finally occurs to me that I left the camera at home.  A brilliant oversight on my part.  But I made arrangements to come back and left the store having made a new friend and looking forward to the weekend.

So, a few days later I started out with the plan to ride back and take a few shots.  A great plan – lunch this time included.  And this is about where anyone can see that I am easily distracted when it comes to antique bikes…

Instead of reaching the shop, I made a wrong turn somewhere along the way and came face to face with a sleek looking flathead parked in an alley, outside someone’s garage.

If you can imagine, this is me staring yet again in disbelief and then trying to sort out how to find the owner and explain via google translate that I’d like to take some pictures.  What I didn’t know at the time was that I was on the backside of Bankara’s. An oasis comprised of several workshops and buildings, all filled with antique motorcycles waiting to be repaired. 

In the end, my trip to the shoe repair shop turned into an impromptu photo shoot at Bankara’s.  Many thanks to Kohji and the folks working there for the hospitality!  If you’re ever in Hiroshima and have a penchant for old bikes this is one place I’d highly recommend.  Swing by and check them out. 

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